NOTE: Your response will not be graded unless you type the entire statement under 1, 2 or 3. You must comply with the statement by providing a minimum of 2 lengthy paragraphs. You must also provide a bibliography of a minimum of 3 sources other than the textbook that helped inform your opinion on the sports topic.
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Sharapova, Youre Out. But Not Woods, Not Vick, Not
Armstrong, Not Bryant, Not . . .
One of the most stunning events of the 2016 Australian Open Tennis Tournament
occurred off the court. Maria Sharapova, one of the top womens players for more than a
decade and the worlds highest-paid female athlete, failed a drug test. Sharapova tested
positive for meldonium, an old substance but one banned by the World Anti-Doping
Agency just two months earlier. After receiving the news, Sharapova quickly held a press
conference, admitted to taking the drug for medical reasons (low magnesium levels), and
apologized.96 Presumably, the reason for doing this was to manage the impression of
her and preserve her influence with fans, sponsors, and the regulators of womens tennis.
That said, scandals, particularly revelations Page 501 of performance-enhancing
drug use, are rampant in sports. But what is striking about the Sharapova case is how
quickly several high-profile sponsorsNike, Tag Hauer, and Porscheannounced they
had suspended contracts and relationships with the tennis star. This is no small matter,
since the bulk of her earnings have come from sponsorships estimated to exceed $200
million over her career.97 We again can assume that the sponsors made their decisions
to manage impressions with their customers. But many see the sponsors actions as
inconsistent or a double standard.
Consider the way some of the same sponsors reacted to other highly publicized
scandals in the not so distant past. In many instances, the sponsors stood by the athletes,
at least for a period of time. Nike continued to sponsor Lance Armstrong for many years
despite repeated allegations of doping during his Tour de France victories. It also stayed
the course with Tiger Woods after revelations of his many extramarital affairs, and with
Kobe Bryant through allegations of rape. And in 2011 Nike even signed a deal with
quarterback Michael Vick after he had served time in prison for funding a dog-fighting ring
and helping to kill dogs that underperformed.98 Many sponsors have continued to support
FIFA, soccers governing body, and the International Olympic Committee through
scandals of their own.99
Supporters of the apparent double standard for Sharapova say the intensity of social
media today means companies need to take decisive and immediate action if trouble is
brewing. A rumor in the morning can go viral and devastate a companys brand by the
afternoon. Others say a quick response provides certain sponsors an out if they feel they
are overpaying or wish to renegotiate with an athlete at a lower rate. Some companies
actually rate and rank the publics trust of celebrities, including athletes. Sharapovas
ranking is almost certain to drop, but before the positive test she was ranked in the top
third on such lists, in line with former New York Yankee star Derek Jeter, comedian Seth
Myers, and singer Demi Lovato.100
Sharapova, 28, certainly has talent and time to recover from a suspension from tennis.
And perhaps her sponsors will see their way clear and reinstate their relationships and
support, as they have done for other athletes in similar and sometimes worse situations.
Time will tell. But the larger issue is what sponsors will do when their celebrity endorsers
step outside the lines either on or off the court, field, course, or stage.
Assume you were the decision maker at Nike at the time of Maria Sharapovas positive
test and announcement.
What Would You Do?
1. Break ties just like Nike did. Regardless of what happened in the past with other
athletes, the company cant afford to be associated with those that break the rules of
their sport or the law. Justify this position, and be sure to do so in light of Nikes
continuing to sponsor the other athletes noted.
2. Change but dont sever your relationship with Sharapova. Describe how you will modify
the relationship, and explain this in light of other sponsors decisions to suspend their
relationships. In other words, you are choosing a different course of action from other
sponsors and you need to explain why.
3. Take a completely different course of action. Explain.
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